Keeping staff onboard and motivated… 101

Create time: Jun 11, 2019

Okay, here’s how it is… There is no denying it, hospitality’s retention levels suck. There are no two ways about it. This stems from a workforce built with an unstable foundation of transient workers who often leave venues within a few months of employment.

Where the business loses

1. Onboarding costs

2. Training costs

3. Cost of the recruitment process

Whether staff are traveling from faraway lands, uni students or veteran industry workers, we just can’t seem to keep them locked in.

But what if there was another way? What if venues could heighten retention, build stronger teams and excel as a workforce — without damaging their bottom line?

We took a control group of 40 hospitality workers and asked them what it was that would likely make them stay at (or leave) a venue.

Here’s a list of savvy tips and tricks that will keep staff happy and motivated this winter.


Give the staff some added responsibility in their roles. All of our respondents expressed that being given an elevated level of responsibility gave them a sense of pride in their work.

Sure, the whole transient workforce thing might breed the mentality that giving staff responsibility is redundant if they are a chance to take off and leave soon, but if we keep treating workforces like they can’t be trusted, they will never feel as though they can grow.

Something as small as teaching a staff member to balance the tills or activate the alarms and telling them that you might need them to do this sometime in the future shows that staff member that…

a. They have progressed in their role

b. You are open to investing in their future

Staff stay at venues longer when they feel valued.

Sales incentives

31% of respondents without being prompted cited sales incentives and sales competitions as being a tip they would give to a manger to keep them working at a venue for longer.

Humans are competitive.

A sales incentive gives staff the opportunity to derive extra value from the work they are doing and allows them to benchmark their progress using a metric. It’s important to remember that the majority of FOH staff don’t have access to reports, so it’s not as easy for them to see the value of putting in the extra yards.

By running a sales comp you are directly involving staff in the value they can add to a venue by hustling harder during a service.

Similarly, simply sending your staff messages with some metrics around their personal sales performance can involve them in the value of working harder.

The real take away for staff from these exercises isn’t typically in the value of the incentive that is won — it’s the sense of fulfilment found in their work.

Hospitality shifts can often be transactional. Staff rock up, get smashed for 10 hours and walk away having not remembered a single interaction from the service.


This is the typical coping mechanism of a hospitality worker and is a minor form of dissociation. Given the stresses of the job, it has a purpose — to not over expose staff to stress. But it can also lead to staff getting bored and becoming dis-engaged.

That’s how we use sales incentives and metrics to reengage them and deliver an added sense of purpose in their roles.

August Staff Get-together

The winter can turn the most positive upbeat culture into a slow and downtrodden vibe.


– Thinned out staff numbers

– Lowered hours across the roster

– Fewer social interactions after work

During the summer customers are a plenty, turnover is up and staff tend to hang around the venue more. As the winter looms, hours, turnover and customers evaporate.


Staff become disconnected from the rest of the team. They stop operating as a unit and become silos in their approach to working.

The fix, an August staff party.

Now, before you jump to conclusions and say ‘I can’t afford a staff party’ let us stop you there.

We aren’t talking about a show stopping ‘hire out a private jet we’re all going to Vegas’, something very small is sufficient. Even if it is just getting staff together after a service where you are happy to comp a few drinks, morale and companionship is strengthened.

Ideally, getting out of the venue is best for building the team because it forces another dynamic onto staff interactions, plus it allows you to relax as a manager.

However, simply planning any event for the future that staff can look forward to tends to charge the team into spring.


Finally, training.

The second most prominent themed answer respondents gave when asked ‘what tip you would give a future manager/employer to keep staff working at a venue?’ was training. It was mentioned in 28% of responses.

Staff want to up-skill in areas across the board. Again, this brings us back to the innate human desire to feel like we are progressing.

Taking a staff member and showing them how to shake up a new cocktail or try a new piece of latte art gives them a sense of achievement and progression.

One thing that is often overlooked by managers is that staff look up to you as a plethora of hospo skills and aspire to have your technical skills. They might not want your beer gut from too many late-night knock offs, but they admire your skill sets.

If you take a food runner down to the keg room and teach them how to change a keg for the first time, you have officially sent that person home having learnt something.

The industry may be transient, and we may see a high turnover of employees, but if we fail to train staff out of a fear that they may leave, we are guaranteeing that someday they will.

It’s a paradox.

Written by CEO/Founder Tom McAll